Book I: Chapter 42-Chapter 46 Summaries
The captive finishes his story as the inn receives another group of guests. A judge named Licentiate Juan Perez de Viedma arrives with his daughter, Doña Clara, and their attendants. Not long after Viedma explains that he is from Leon, the captive realizes that he is Viedma's brother. The priest intervenes and speaks to Viedma to determine whether or not the captive should confront Viedma with the truth. The priest learns that the judge loves his missing brother very much; furthermore, Viedma's father is still alivebut ailing. The aging father offers "incessant prayers," hoping to live long enough to see his missing son (the captive) again. When the brothers are reunited, there is great jubilation.
Don Quixote exits the inn and stands outside as a "sentinel at the castle gate"just as he promises to do. In the middle of the night, a young man approaches the inn and sings love songs. Cardenio sneaks into the room where the women are sleeping and he wakes Dorotea. Once Dorotea hears the song, she wakes Doña Clara because the singer has a beautiful voice. Doña Clara recognizes the voice as soon as she hears it. The young man is in love with Doña Clara, and he has followed her in disguised pursuit. Clara has never had a conversation with the young man, and they have maintained their courtship at a distance and without any form of communication. Nonetheless, Clara wishes to marry this young man, who once lived next door to her. Dorotea and Maritornes decide to intervene on Doña Clara's behalf: perhaps tonight, the two lovers might speak to each other for the first time.
Maritornes securely fastens Don Quixote's wrist to a doorpostjust to insure that the knight will not cause trouble. Quixote's posture is uncomfortable and awkward. Quixote is still on Rocinante's back, but his arm his tied so high upon the post that the knight is forced to stand-up in his stirrups. When four horsemen approach the inn, they deride Quixote because he looks ridiculous. Vulnerable and out-numbered, Quixote is in a worse situation when Rocinante moves: Quixote's feet slip out of the stirrups and the knight remains suspended by his tied arm. Quixote's feet almost reach the ground; stretching towards the ground, however, only tightens the pain in Quixote's choking wrist. The knight lets out a terrible roar that rouses the innkeeper to investigate the scene.
The young man who would be Doña Clara's lover is Don Louis. The four horsemen, in the service of Don Louis' father, bid Don Louis to return home. Doña Clara's father, the judge, now sees through the disguise and recognizes his neighbor's son. The judge listens to Don Louis tell of his love for Doña Clara and he considers the marriage proposal. Two guests attempt to leave the inn without paying and, despite the innkeeper's insistence, Quixote abstains from intervening. The knight has sworn to abstain from "new" adventures until he has completed the terms of his service to Princess Micomicona. Nonetheless, when the two guests begin beating the innkeeper, Quixote successfully reasons with the rogues and bids them pause.
Towards the end of these chapters, justice finally catches up with Don Quixote. First, the barber from whom Quixote has stolen a basin now returns to the inn. Quixote stands by his original premise that the basin is actually "Mambrino's helmet." The barber defies Quixote, accusing the knight of blatant theft. The crowd of guests enjoys the bickering between the barber and the knight, mockingly defending Quixote's claim that the basin is truly Mambrino's helmet.
When the barber and his friends become violent, both the judge and Quixote's friend, the priest, call for peace and calm the crowd. As could be expected, a few members of the Holy Brotherhood make themselves visible, having been attracted to the commotion. Surveying the scene, one officer realizes that they have a warrant for Quixote's arrest: the "knight-errant" stands accused of "setting at liberty" a group of "galley-slaves."
The officer intends to take Quixote into custody but the knight rebuffs the officer. Quixote launches into a hilarious speech, arguing that it is illogical and inane to subdue a knight with a warrant. Referring to the author of the warrant, Quixote asks: "Who was he that knew not that knights-errant are exempt from all judicial authority, that their sword is their law, their bravery their privileges, and their will their edicts?" The priest intercedes on Quixote's behalf, explaining that Quixote is merely a deranged gentleman: the gentleman's insanity fairly exempts the knight from punishment. After the priest guarantees that Quixote will behave, the Holy Brotherhood agrees not to arrest the knight.
Sancho tells Don Quixote that the Princess Micomicona is not a princess; Sancho has seen her kiss Don Fernando. Quixote is enraged, believing that Sancho is lying. Dorotea insists that she is the Princess Micomicona but, sympathizing with Sancho, she suggests that Sancho has been enchantedduped into believing that she kissed Don Fernando. The barber and the priest decide to convey Quixote home immediately. The knight is captured and bound; his friends then put him inside of a cage that is fastened to an ox-cart. The barber dresses up as a sage, issuing prophesy that Quixote will win great honors at home. And so, Quixote believes that he is traveling inside of some enchantmentnot a cage.
The narrative structure returns to the inn and the plot action has been precipitated by new entrances (it has been a very long night). The novel describes these scenes as the "continuation of the unheard-of adventures." There is a sentimental parallel between the two triangles: Beautiful Clara is wooed by the singer, hoping to appease her father, the judge. Beautiful Zoraida was wooed by the captive, unable to appease her father, an obstinate Muslim. The lover who has never spoken to Clara (but loves her nonetheless) is much like Quixote, who has no substantive relationship with Dulcinea. Though the plot is very simplistic in these chapters, there is some variety of outcomes. We see the happy reunion of a Catholic Spanish family juxtaposed with the permanent rift between a convert, Zoraida, and her Muslim ("infidel") father.
As in the previous chapters, Don Quixote remains outside of the fabric of young lovers and storytellers. When Don Quixote stands as a sentinel outside the inn, he becomes a parody of himself. Physically, he is incapable of mounting a defense. Throughout the novel, Quixote has played the role of a knight. Quixote never played the role convincingly. Once fettered and disarmed, Quixote is another level removed from the ideal of the knight. Realistically, he insures the safety of the others by keeping his distance. He standsawayas a guard against himself. In Chapter 44, Don Quixote does not use his prowess as a knight to ward off the thieves. He uses plain talk to fend them off.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are criminals, as the presence of the judge reminds us. Don Quixote cannot escape the law forever. When the Holy Brotherhood appear on the scene, in Chapter 45, with a warrant for Quixote's arrest they are long foreshadowed. The priest's role becomes more complicated as he is forced to mediate between the religious authorities and the best interests of his friend. Quixote receives mercy only because he is convincingly insane.
Just as Quixote is tied to the post, he is soon trapped in a cage and carted home. The imagery of fire expresses the burning of books as a quasi-medical means of eliminating a contagious threat. Here, the cage is a prison for Quixote, designed to impose spatial limitations on a man who has a dangerously expansive imagination. Don Quixote claims to be of an order that is "exempt from all judicial authority" and adds "that their sword is their law." He punctures the law, violates the rights of others, and has wandered miles from home. If Quixote holds that the "sword" is his "law," his cage-prison is the parody and consequence of his suit of armor. Quixote has dressed himself as the law, but without legitimate power, his armor was pure symbol and costume. Quixote is insane and so he is exempt from the law, but his friends lock him inside the cage with the express permission of the Holy Brotherhood. Indeed, it is required.
The priest says "in matters of chivalryyield him the preference," but he does not argue that Quixote should have free rein. Rather, Quixote can define his delusions however he pleases, but the sane and rational outsiders should contain Quixote's delusions without destroying them. Put Quixote in a cage, but let him call the cage an enchantment.
In terms of aesthetics, this is a rephrasing of the form vs. content argument raised by the priest in Chapter 35. Now we can sum up the Priest's argument: The author of the madness is right about the details, regardless of whether it is madness or not (Friston, not Muñaton). The details of a lie can be right or wrong, regardless of the truth of the lie (Dorotea may have forgotten her name, but the Priest is right to remind her that she is called the Princess Micomicona).
The irony and humiliation of Quixote's fall create a somber mood. Quixote created real dangers but the law easily managed to survive Quixote's rebellion. On the other hand, the humor of Quixote's imagination does not survive the cage. When the barber pretends to be a prophetic sage, he is only speaking to Quixote and he predicts the precise opposite of what is true. There is no glory. Some argue that Don Quixote's friends are simply making mockery of Quixote for their own amusement. However, their persistent deception provides a mechanism to get Quixote to go homeand it also gives him a fair amount of emotional comfort. Mercy and efficiency do not necessarily go hand in hand, though. The barber's own words remind us how important glory and honor are for Quixote. Being carted in a cage in broad daylight is far crueler than the efforts of the laborer in Chapter 5. Even though he is not a close acquaintance of Quixote, the laborer waits for the cover of night before carrying the gentleman's abused body back into town.
The cage marks the climax of Book I because Don Quixote is definitely going home now. The cage is a plot device to secure Don Quixote so that this narrative thread can end. The cage seals off the possibility of any further complications. Some critics argue that the climax should have occurred earlier in the novel, but we have already read that the story continues beyond Book I. This is the resolution of Quixote's second expedition.